December 6, 2021

Back to the Future

Sally Jack is a writer and poet based in Leicester. She has just completed a degree and during her time at university was the food columnist in The Demon newspaper. These are a selection of her recipes – aimed at students but suitable for all. Sally enjoys writing feature articles and fiction for children and grown ups, however, she also has a keen interest in poetry, art, theatre and local history. And food – cooking it, sharing it and writing about it.


Back to the Future

I understand retro is the new new. Perhaps never more noticeable as in fashion and although a lady isn’t supposed to divulge her age I have seen a few fashion comebacks, and maybe I’m no lady either. Take platform shoes. They have returned and have new use as they are the perfect height to evade summer puddles. And I remember flares first time around. I liked to team my yellow corduroys  with a Rupert the Bear jumper.

Thankfully I don’t write about fashion. I will, however, mention a TV programme from the early ‘80s that contributed to the inspiration for these recipes, a programme freely available on iTunes and Youtube and showing life on a budget, regrettably something we are increasingly doing again. The programme was The Young Ones. In one episode, Neil (the hippy) was preparing dinner. “Does anyone want the last chick pea?” The answer from Mike, a house mate: “I didn’t even want the first one.” Well I think it’s funny.

Lentils, chick peas and other pulses sometimes get this reaction but they are a great source of protein, cheap and conveniently available in cans. I have used lentils as a suggestion to add to sauces for pasta. There is also a retro, 80s style pasta bake with a bag of crisps as a crunchy topping. For the full retro effect I recommend cheese and onion flavour.

How about these ideas for two, to go with the pasta shape of your choice:

Mascarpone and Sun Dried Tomato Paste – mix half a tub of mascarpone in a saucepan with a couple of spoons of sun dried tomato paste, heat through and stir into drained, cooked pasta.  This would also work with Pesto instead of tomato paste. Really good with spaghetti.

Roast Veg – if you wanted to bulk up the above sauce you could also add a few roast vegetables. Preheat oven to 200C/ Gas 6. Slice an onion, courgette, pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes. Put in a roasting tray with a slug of oil and a sprinkle of herbs if you have them and roast for 20 – 30 mins. Stir this through the pasta and mascarpone sauce.

Lentil Bolognaise – chop an onion, fry gently in a little oil in a medium – large saucepan, add a chopped courgette, pepper (again any veg of this sort) and fry briefly.  Drain a can of green lentils (or borlotti or cannelloni beans) into a sieve and rinse. Add to the vegetables together with a can of chopped tomatoes, and then half of this can of water. Add dried herbs if you like. You could also add a squirt of tomato puree if you have it, or a spoonful of sun dried tomato paste. Cover and leave to simmer for 20 mins until thickened.  Serve with pasta.

Macaroni and Lentil Soup –  filling and comforting. Chop an onion and gently fry in a little oil in a medium to large saucepan. Meanwhile, dissolve a stock cube (preferably vegetable) in approx 1 pint/half a litre or so of boiling water. Drain and sieve a can of lentils as before. Add to saucepan. Add the lentils and most of the stock. Add about half a teaspoon  dried cumin if you like. Stir, cover the saucepan and leave to simmer for approx 15 mins. Then add macaroni (portion according to packet instructions) direct to the saucepan plus the remaining stock and return to simmer. You need to keep an eye on this now as the macaroni does absorb some of the liquid as it cooks and you want a thick soup consistency here. Add a splash more water if getting too dry, or if you feel the sauce is too liquid, keep the lid off and it will reduce but again, keep an eye on it. This should take about ten minutes. I also like this with a splash of red wine vinegar once it has cooked, perhaps an acquired taste.

All these recipes are great with Parmesan on top – grate a block and keep in the freezer and add to your dinner as and when you need it.

And now for the retro recipe:

Tuna Pasta Bake

For 2 people

– 1 x 185g can tuna (in spring water or brine preferably)

– 1 x small can condensed mushroom soup

– Pasta shapes of some sort – see packet for quantities

– 1 x 165g can of sweetcorn

– 2 handfuls of frozen peas

– 30g packet of crisps

– 50g grated cheese, or more if you like it really cheesy (Cheddar is good here)

Preheat oven to 200C/Gas 6

  1. Cook pasta according to packet instructions
  2. Meanwhile drain tuna, tip into a large bowl and separate with a fork. Stir in sweetcorn and peas and mix together with the can of soup. This will be quite sloppy but that’s OK
  3. Drain pasta once cooked and add to tuna mixture. Stir through.
  4. Tip mixture into an ovenproof dish
  5. Open the crisps and crush them by hand over the mixture. Top with grated cheese and put in the oven for 15 – 20 mins.
  6. Serve with Vimto and episodes of the Young Ones

As ever, feel free to add other veg as you prefer, maybe sliced mushrooms (which you may wish to cook first) or a sprinkle of chopped spring onion. Another retro topping idea is crushed cornflakes but personally, I prefer the crisps.

Recipe by Sally Jack

Photography by Briony Latter

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